News Story

Joana Vieira Awarded APS Student Research Award

May 13, 2013 – Vieira’s award-winning research for the APS 2013 Conference investigated the association between psychopathic traits and ‘interpersonal distance” preferences in a community sample. Results showed that high psychopathic traits, namely callousness, are associated with a preference for maintaining shorter distances in interpersonal interactions, a behavioral pattern that has been previously linked to amygdala dysfunction. In the future, she hopes that she and others will study this phenomenon more closely – for example, by directly examining the neural correlates of interpersonal distance regulation as a function of psychopathic traits, and by examining the associations between interpersonal distance, aggression, and fear in psychopathy. Read more about the the APS Student Research Award.

UPDATE 06/21/2013: In addition to this award, she was also presented with the Cheryl Wynne Hare Award for best poster at the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy conference in June, as well as the Best Student Abstract Award for Human research at the Society for Social Neuroscience conference last October. These prizes were awarded for posters presenting the results of her dissertation research, which focuses on the neural correlates of economic decisions in psychopathy. This study has produced results showing that distinct neural mechanisms were activated when participants high and low in psychopathic traits made decisions, an outcome that appears to reflect different motivations for their decisions. Participants with low psychopathy scores appeared to be more concerned with fairness, while participants with high psychopathy scores appeared to be more concerned with getting rewards.

Vieira is interested in understanding the neural basis of social cognition, both in normal individuals and in individuals with conditions that include known interpersonal impairments. She is currently working on her dissertation examining the neural correlates of social decision-making in psychopathy here at Georgetown under the mentorship of Professor Abigail Marsh in Georgetown’s Laboratory on Social & Affective Neuroscience.

Congratulations, Joana!